North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble

Devin Pandy, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of Gainesville, GA

October 06, 2021 Fannin Co. GA Democratic Party Season 1 Episode 22
North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble
Devin Pandy, Democratic Candidate for Mayor of Gainesville, GA
Show Notes Transcript

The North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble podcast covers democratic politics in North GA, the 9th Congressional District, and across the state of Georgia. The podcast is in Q&A/Interview format with various democratic politicos including county chairs, democratic operatives, politicians, and more. It is our mission to deliver crucial information to our listeners in a timely manner as we fight for community values and principles in the 3rd most Conservative district in the state. Our website is: https://www.fcdpga.com/podcasts

Our guests highlight democratic activities and actions to work toward a Blue Georgia. The 9th Congressional District spans 20 counties across the region and covers a good deal of northern GA including Blue Ridge, Morganton, Fannin, Union, Banks, Athens/Clarke, Dawson, Elbert, Forsyth, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, and White counties. 

Our democratic party podcast also disseminates information and interviews powerful Democrats across the state of GA who are working to overthrow the suppression tactics of the GOP and ensure democracy and our values, grassroots efforts, and goals remain intact. 

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Meral Clarke:

Welcome back to the North Georgia Blue Podcast produced and distributed by the Fannin County, Georgia Democratic Party. I'm your host Meral Clarke and we're getting into some good trouble today with our special guest, Devin Pandy, who is running for mayor of Gainesville, Georgia. Welcome Devin, we're happy to have you on the show with us today.

Devin Pandy:

Thank you so much. I am so very happy to be here.

Meral Clarke:

Well, we're thrilled Thank you so much. Let's let our listeners know a little bit about you. Devin is a 21 year US Army combat veteran and wounded warrior. He served in five deployments to Panama, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan and retired at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2. Thank you for your service, sir. We are immensely grateful and indebted to you. Devin is committed to continuing his service to the country the State of Georgia, the City of Gainesville as well. He remains active in the community raising awareness for worker safety, wildlife conservation, the homeless, health care, fair and equal living wages, small business development, veterans mental health and other issues facing our communities. Devin volunteers his time to a local equestrian center North District Opportunity and Georgia Families United. He is also a member of Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8452 and serves as chaplain of American Legion post seven Devin looks forward to serving as Gainesville's next mayor and is proud to bring with him the values of honor and integrity instilled in him by his parents and reinforced while serving in the armed forces. He believes in honesty and transparency, leading from the front, and working collectively with others to accomplish common goals. Devin supports bold yet sensible approaches to the issues concerning the City of Gainesville and its residents and from day one will be mission focused on working alongside the city council, business owners and residents to collectively strive for a greater Gainesville. Devin Pandy is a man of faith, a father, an immigrant, a concerned citizen, and a servant leader. He looks forward to marrying his fiance, Atia in October of this year. Congratulations and best wishes on the upcoming nuptials. You must be very excited. So Devin, why are you running for mayor of Gainesville? What are your top priorities? And how do you plan to implement them once you're in office?

Devin Pandy:

Very good questions. I am running for mayor because as you mentioned in that wonderful introduction, thank you. I served in the military in the United States Army for 21 years. Before that, my father's 20 years. And my mother was always doing something in and for the community. And so even when I didn't even realize it, I was brought up serving others. That's what I saw my mother do. So when I saw my father do and that's what I did. And I'm not done serving. And one of the best ways to ensure that we are taking care of everyone in our communities in Gainesville is to serve as their mayor. And some of my priorities include housing affordability, ensuring that not only today can we afford to live in this great city, but that down the line, our children and our children's children are able to afford to live here as well, and to thrive here and to build legacies or their posterity to come. Some of my other priorities include community development, revitalization, ensuring that we are using the American rescue plan to its fullest potential, ensuring that we are having the proper studies done by independent entities to ensure that we are implementing the best strategic plans for our city to include further construction, public transportation, and things of that nature. And also to ensure that we are looking out for our homeless residents, giving them the tools and making the tools available to them to be able to get back on their feet. They are not lazy people. They are working very hard just to live as it is. I believe it's up to us to make sure that they have the resources to get back on their feet. Those are just some of the issues that I aim to address as mayor.

Meral Clarke:

Terrific and I assume rural broadband is also on your radar. That's a huge issue up here in the 9th.

Devin Pandy:

Absolutely. It is, and especially in a pandemic, during that our children have not only the tools, the devices, but also the connectivity to be able to learn effectively while this pandemic is ongoing. So that is always an issue, especially in this area.

Meral Clarke:

Absolutely. What will you do once you're in office to alleviate the lack of affordable housing? This is a problem not just in Gainesville, but across the ninth congressional district and across all of rural Georgia everywhere in the state, not just in northern Georgia. So what are your plans to increase affordability? Unfortunately, the Blue Ridge city council just voted town with a very close vote housing affordability. And I know there are issues in Gilmer County with that as well. What is the situation in Gainesville? And how do you plan to make it better?

Devin Pandy:

Though, we have some beautiful construction going on in the downtown midtown areas of Gainesville. Unfortunately, as beautiful as they are, almost half of our residents cannot afford to live in any of those places. Many of our residents cannot afford housing, without being cost burdened more than $650 a month. And so we have to make sure that while we are seeking to progress, Gainesville into the future that we are not pricing out our longtime residents, our residents who were not born here, were not raised here, but chose to live here because it is a great city. We need to make sure that we are not pricing out those people. So those are some of the things that are going on, and my plan to fix some of those things. Actually, couple of months ago, I published a housing affordability strategic plan. And in that plan, it's really a 10 point plan. And those points are briefly to define a community standard for affordability, establish a standard operating procedure for reviewing proposed developments for impact on affordability and existing communities. Also filling in the gaps for a solid solution filling in the gaps to our current city plans, accessing opportunities for collaboration and community strengths, establishing ambitious, yet achievable goals supporting a housing first policy, which speaks to our homeless, consider expanding zoning to allow for accessory dwelling units, encourage mixed use developments targeted at 60% AMI, looking into using more land trust models, transforming our blighted properties, or smaller vacant lots in less affluent neighborhoods into mini parks. And then finally, some of our codes have been there for literally decades. And some of them are a little outdated. So having a summit to recognize which codes need to change which codes can stay in which goes need to go.

Meral Clarke:

Terrific. And I assume you've worked out the affordability of all of these initiatives?

Devin Pandy:

Well, I mean, always an issue that yes, it is. And the first thing that many people will say is how are we going to pay for all of these things? And what I say is that no matter what we do moving forward, no matter what we do, it is going to cost money. And so if it is going to cost the money, and let's use that money, to ensure that we are taking the right steps so that we are not wasting the money that we're using. If we have to spend a quarter a half than what we're spending now, in order to make sure that in 5-10 years, we actually have an affordable city to live in, then that's what we should do. It will save us money in the long run.

Meral Clarke:

Absolutely. I completely agree. You've also stated that at least half of Gainesville is comprised of people of color. As a black and Latino individual yourself, how will you help this growing constituency across the ninth district and in Gainesville itself?

Devin Pandy:

Well, I'm very proud of my heritage. I am African, I am Hispanic. I am Irish. I like to call myself the Heinz 57. And there's a lot of flavor in Heinz 57. Yes, there is. And why not take advantage of that flavor. Let's go ahead and include everyone into what this city has developed and will develop right. And so let's take the Black, for example. So the Black community now, actually, let me preface all of this by saying that when I talk about the Black community, the Hispanic community, I do that because those are readily available descriptors to help people understand who and where I'm talking about. But let's not be mistaken in our Black communities and our Hispanic communities in some of the less affluent, lower income communities, there are white people who live in those communities, Asian Pacific Islanders who live in those communities. I'm not here to cater to one gender, or one age bracket or one ethnicity, I am here to act as mayor for everyone. So I just want that to be understood. But let's take the Hispanic community, for example. So the raw data from the census so far, has told us that we have anywhere from 42 to 47%, of Gainesville is Hispanic or Latino. And what that tells me is that in a country that does not have a primary, which we should be ensuring that we are making our city language accessible. And we can start with ballots, we can start by having bilingual ballots, where everyone who lives here is able to go and vote and understand the ballot and understand what and who they're voting for.

Meral Clarke:

And that's so important. And I'm just shocked that we don't at this point with all the transcription and language programs that are out there that we don't take advantage of that. So I'm happy to hear you mentioned that, actually, you're the first person who's mentioned that. So thank you for bringing that to our attention and our listeners attention. You're also an immigrant tell us why. And I am the child of immigrants. I am first generation American. So I applaud you. And I applaud you for that stance about immigration being so important for this country. So tell us why it's so important and how your background has shaped your current viewpoints?

Devin Pandy:

Well, I would say that it's very easy for anyone who was born here to dismiss those who were not. I get it, I hear it a lot myself. And I would say that maybe you were born here, maybe your parents were born here, maybe your grandparents were born here. But somewhere along the line, this is a country of immigrants. Unless your ancestors are indigenous to this country. We are all immigrants here. And many immigrants come here seeking a better life. My mother and father did. And I thank God that they did, they allowed me to to fall in love with a country that accepted me and allowed me to thrive. And I am so appreciative of that. And so understanding that people come here, for various reasons, various reasons, but they come here for a better way of life. And many seek and find that and they want to work and to provide and to contribute to the American way of life. And I believe that embracing that will only make us as a community even stronger.

Meral Clarke:

Oh, absolutely. immigrants have made this country strong. And I wish that was a point that more people understood. So thank you for elaborating on that. So drilling back down to Gainesville, Georgia, you're not from Gainesville, originally? Where are you from? and what brought you here?

Devin Pandy:

Yes, I am not from Gainesville. Like I say, I hear it all the time. Well, you're not from here. And the first question I will get is, where are you from? And I finally figured out how to answer that question. My answer is, I am from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I was born in Belize, Central America, I came here with my mother and father when I was two years old, and I've been here ever since. Well, my father and I and my older brother were sent back. We had to go back to Belize, because we did not come here legally. But they did. And so she spent the next I believe 18 to 24 months working to do the proper paperwork to get us here. And so we did and we've been here ever since. And my father lived and breathed U.S. He joined the army and was very, very patriotic. I remember watching Braves games. And it's an interesting story why we became Braves fans. And maybe I'll tell you that another time. We would watch Braves games and I remember as a kid standing in front of the the TV saluting when they played the national anthem. And so my father spent 20 years in the military and then I spent 21 years in the military. So from the time I was seven when my father joined the army until I was 41. When I retired from the army, I had never been in one place for more than three or four years. So I am from everywhere.

Meral Clarke:

Yes, you're a global citizen. Truly.

Devin Pandy:

I believe that those experiences with different cultures and languages and foods and, and music and dance and governments. Those things have shaped me in a way that is very different from what you would normally find. And I believe that I'm able to think outside the box many times to come up with solutions that may otherwise have not been thought of. And so I'm very excited to bring that experience and dare I say wisdom to the mayoral seat.

Meral Clarke:

Wonderful and also a larger perspective that so many others don't have. So you're not a politician. You've never held office. How do you intend to succeed as a politician? And why do you believe you're qualified to be mayor?

Devin Pandy:

Well, what qualifies me is my experience. It may not be experience in American politics. But I do have experience in leading and you know, to be a leader, you don't have to be the smartest person. You just have to be smart enough to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.

Meral Clarke:

Absolutely. I'm a true believer in that statement.

Devin Pandy:

And so being able to put my pride aside, and listen to what other people have to say, listen to their their suggestions, finding subject matter experts who can educate me educate the rest of the council, educate the public on certain issues, that's important. Being able to take those suggestions, those studies, those subject matter expert advice, and putting together courses of action, and then figuring out different courses of action, and then figuring out out of those courses of action, which course of action is the best one to take the one that will find the best balance between spending and benefit to Gainesville and its residents. So while I may not be your polished politician, I do not stand without the prerequisite experience to lead and to accomplish the mission.

Meral Clarke:

Okay, great. And it's wonderful that you've surrounded yourself with those people who can help you as well. So we all know that the ninth congressional district, including Gainesville, is heavily conservative, and we unfortunately reside in a heavily red district as well. So how do you intend to ensure success of your policies in a highly conservative district? And how will you work with Republicans to ensure that those policies are manageable and workable for all the people?

Devin Pandy:

Well, one of the things that I do like about this race is that it is nonpartisan. And I like that, because I believe that one moment, we're saying that gangs, Crips, and bloods red and blue are, well, if I want to say that correctly, blue and red are wrong. But then we do the same thing in our government. And we separate ourselves between blue and red, we separate ourselves in a way that I don't believe that we should. And this is one of the great things that I bring with me from my military experience and from being raised by such accepting parents is that the division that exists right now doesn't have to exist, it exists because some on either side, decide that they want to make certain things devisive, and that's not what needs to happen. You know, in the military, we put our differences aside, we wear the same uniform, we wear the same patches, we defend the same constitution, and we should be thinking about it in that way. We should be thinking that we salute the same flag. We defend the same constitution, and we believe in the same democracy. So why can we not come together and take both sides and join them? Right, there shouldn't be sides in this country, you can have differences of opinion, I think that that's what makes us great. Having differences of opinion, being able to debate those things, being able to come up with solutions that work best for all, I think is the best way to go. And until we get to that point, we are going to continue to see these divisions and the terrible consequences that come along with it. So my vision of moving into the mayoral seat is to ensure that while we are campaigning, nonpartisanly - I just made up that word. We are campaigning in a non partisan manner. We need to take that same non partisanship into the city council and ensure that we are all working together toward the same goal. And so that's one of the tenets of my campaign is to establish what our goals are, and then move in a coordinated effort to accomplish those goals.

Meral Clarke:

And how do you intend to do that? It's been drilling down to the necessities of how important this is, how do you intend to accomplish that when we are as a country more divided than ever? How do you talk to conservatives? How do you get them on board with your initiatives and plans?

Devin Pandy:

Well, first, what I do personally, is I don't think of them as conservatives. I don't think of myself as a liberal. I think of us all as American citizens who want to do good things for the people we represent. And so when I go in, I'm not going to be thinking to myself, Oh, this person is a conservative, let me say this one thing, but oh, this person is a liberal, so I'm going to say something else. No, I'm going to speak to everyone in the same way so that they all know exactly where I'm coming from, and they won't have to worry about hearing one thing from me and then me saying something to someone else. Now. I cannot control how someone else feels or how they act. All I can control is myself, all I can do is maintain my integrity, and to ensure that everything that I am doing, and push the council to ensure that everything that they do benefits the city as a whole.

Meral Clarke:

So it's just speaking honestly, basically from the heart and letting people know who you are, and what your intentions are. So that makes sense. I wanted to touch on something you mentioned earlier about the homeless population. Homelessness is growing exponentially in our country. And it's only going to get worse with the end of federal benefits and that safety net and COVID-19 has certainly impacted many of those folks and created homeless situations for many people. How are you going to alleviate that situation in Gainesville?

Devin Pandy:

Well, right now, in Gainesville, and around Hall County, we have several organizations who actively work to help our homeless. The unfortunate thing is that they do not currently possess the resources to alleviate homelessness. All they can do at this point is help. But if they had help themselves from, say, the city, and let's say that we were to partner along with the county to maybe start a housing first initiative to, first of all, get our homeless off of the street, out of the homeless camps, get them housing, get them the education that they need, the physical and mental health care that they need, help them to improve their credit, help them to regain their social norms, to be able to get along in society. We do those things. If we take those steps, it will take time. But the sooner we get started, the sooner we can get to a place where Gainesville can see 0% of its population homeless, instead of right now having over 300 homeless folks in our city. I think one is unnecessary and unacceptable.

Meral Clarke:

And how do you plan on going about changing the hearts and minds of those who don't understand that homelessness impacts not only the homeless, but it impacts all of us? How are you going to go about talking to folks and letting them know why it's such an urgent situation for everyone?

Devin Pandy:

One of the first things I would do is go to the experts. We have experts here who are working with the homeless literally every single day. We have Mike Fisher from ninth district opportunity who works with the homeless every single day Joshua Sullivan, who has a great enormous passion for caring for and decriminalizing homelessness, my friend Kristen, who works alongside Mike Fisher, and on her own as well working with different clergy around the city to ensure that our homeless are being clothed, and that they have food, finding those experts who do this every day who know what our homeless need, and not to just help them get by to the next day, but to help them get off of homelessness, and to get them into a home into a job into society.

Meral Clarke:

That's so important. And it's important for everyone. There's no doubt about that. Every aspect of homelessness affects every American regardless of whether they know it or not. So you've also stated that your hero is Shirley Chisholm, one of my favorites, as well. We all love Shirley. We all grew up with her. She is the first black woman elected to the US House of Representatives. So certainly a trailblazer. Tell us a little bit more about why she's your hero and how you plan to emulate her behavior and implement her policies in Gainesville. And tell us about that experience. Maybe growing up and watching her with so much pride when she entered office and why it matters.

Devin Pandy:

Well, my experience with Shirley Chisholm is from historical data. I was not old enough to remember when she was doing all of these things. I am not one to be starstruck. There aren't many people in history that I would choose to meet. If I had the chance. Shirley as one of them. She was absolutely fearless. In a time when she had much to fear. She was Yes, a Black woman. She was a woman. And so those two things worked against her to get into the positions that she was more than qualified to be in. They worked against her to gain the respect that she absolutely deserved. But none of those things stop her from trying to achieve those things. And so you know, she was the first Black woman to run for President. Yes, she was and she fought for the people. She fought for Black rights. She fought for women's rights, she fought for the rights of the poor for the homeless. And for the lower income. She fought for people who needed someone in a position that could give them a voice. And she gave the people that voice.

Meral Clarke:

And also for Black women, she was highly active in the women's liberation movement back in the early 70s, late 60s, early 70s to mid 70s, and actually gave a voice to Black women within that movement who weren't as involved at the time. So that was a whole different segment that she brought to the forefront of our attention. And it was so important at the time. And thankfully, we have many, many, many Black women who are carrying that flag forward, especially women like Congresswoman Nakima Williams, and so many others that are carrying that forward on the national level. So it's just so important and so critical. And I'm grateful you brought her up. You know, we've got a little bit of time. So I want to go back to your story about the Atlanta Braves and why you were so enamored and your family was so enamored with them at the time. Go ahead. I mean, the Atlanta Braves are basically our hometown team across Georgia. So tell us a little bit more about that.

Devin Pandy:

Yes, so we were Braves fans before we ever lived in Georgia. So you will see that in Belize, most people my father's age to this day are Chicago Cubs fans. And the reason why is because for a very long time, WGN was the only American TV station that Belizians could see.

Meral Clarke:

Right now Chicago based and they carried all the Cubs games, of course.

Devin Pandy:

to a lot of people. But for some reason my father could not stand the Cubs. We first came to the US, we moved to New York, and we lived literally right down the street from Yankee Stadium. I remember being able to hear the games, from our we lived with my aunt at the time, I could remember hearing the games from her apartment. That's how close we were to Yankee Stadium. And my father could not stand the Yankees. This day, it is my rival team. So for any Yankee fans out there who live in this area, first of all, how dare you? And second of all, you can still vote for me. It's okay.

Meral Clarke:

Well, I'm a Mets fan myself, so that's not too bad. Yeah, you and I were good. Oh, okay. That's better than the Yankees.

Devin Pandy:

Yeah. So then my father joined the military. And his first duty station was Fort Stewart, Georgia, in Hinesville. And so we got there. And he loves baseball. He just didn't have a team. And we started watching the Braves. And so I watched baseball more back then, than I do right now. And so I can still tell you about Bob Warner and Dale Murphy and Pendleton. And all of those greats from back then, because that's what we did. We watch Braves baseball. And I have been a Braves fan ever since then. And that was 1980

Meral Clarke:

Oh, that's a great story. You should communicate that to Liberty Media, let them know. So they can endorse your campaign. That's terrific. Well, you've just been a fabulous interview. I so appreciate it. If folks want to get involved with your campaign and or support you donate to your campaign financially. Where would you send them?

Devin Pandy:

May I say two more things before we get to that, of course. One is that on October 8, will be exactly 40 years that I have been an American citi en congratulations. Very happy. nd I thank the country that wel omed and accepted my family and am proud to have served his country and I looking forwar to continue serving through ser ice to my community and my cit . I said there were two things, but I'll just leave it at t

Meral Clarke:

Fantastic. You have a lovely backstory. And thank you for sharing so much of that with us. Oh, tell us where folks can go to help you out?

Devin Pandy:

Yes, well, I made it very easy. If you would like to learn more about Devin Pandy, who was running for mayor of Gainesville, then all you have to do is just go to MayorofGainesville.com and you will get all the information that you need about me and my campaign. You can also volunteer we're always looking to welcome more volunteers. You can intern for us if you need the experience and then reference afterward. Absolutely. If you'd like to contribute to the campaign financially, you can do that from the webpage as well. And you can also contact me personally through either text or email by going to the webpage mayorofgainesville.com

Meral Clarke:

Fantastic and thank you for making that accessible to everyone and I asked all my guests this and it's always an entertaining point for our listeners. Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something not related to your campaign, something we haven't discussed yet. Although we'd hit points. Tell something fun just about you.

Devin Pandy:

Okay, well, I am not money motivated, I am experience motivated. With my career field and having a top secret clearance and my rank, I could have easily gotten a mid six figure job. That wouldn't have made me happy. So that's not what I did. What I did after I retired is that I traveled for two years. And then the interesting thing about me is that I did a little bit of acting. And so if you'd like to see some of my acting, I'll give you two tips on how to see me act. One is you can look at the television show Dynasty, or the movie what was Spider Man's nemesis? The black Spider Man what was his name again? Venom Venom Also find me in the TV show Star. But I'll give you my second hint on how to catch me in any of those shows. Or that movie is don't blink. It's very quick.

Meral Clarke:

So they were just but you were I'm dynasty. Really?

Devin Pandy:

I was Yes.

Meral Clarke:

Oh my that's great.

Devin Pandy:

I was one of those Carrington bodyguards.

Meral Clarke:

Love it. And what made you decide to get out of acting to politics?

Devin Pandy:

Actually, to be totally honest. I still do. Like I don't have a day job. You know, you have many people who run have a day job that they do as well. And I have been blessed enough to have retired from my day job. And so I don't have a day job, but I still act. So there are a couple of shows that I've actually done this year.

Meral Clarke:

Are you interested in community theater, which is always fun.

Devin Pandy:

I think my theater days might be over. Well, who knows? Who knows? If the right production comes along, and the right part comes along? You never know.

Meral Clarke:

I love it. Well thank you Devin, for joining us today and sharing more about your critical work to support Democrats and maintain our democracy across the state. I'm Meral Clarke and on behalf of our team, I'd like to thank everyone for listening to the North Georgia Blue Podcast. We hope you'll listen next time when our special guest will be Kolbey Gardner, Democratic candidate running to be Georgia's next lieutenant governor. To learn more about us and the work that we're doing, please visit us online at FanninCountyGeorgiaDemocrats.com. Share the North Georgia Blue Podcast with your friends and family and be sure to subscribe and follow and if you enjoy our podcast consider becoming a founding patron and friend of the show at NorthGeorgiaBluePodcast.com/patron so we can continue getting into more good trouble.